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Tennessee Williams reads Eternity by Hart Crane

There is something about Eternity that has always played on my heart strings. It may be that I heard the poem first read by Tennessee Williams on an LP I’d bought, a Caedmon recording. It is one of the better performances by the playwright. Listening, I could hear why he was so good at drama; he understood people to their core. He is the narrator. I created this vimeo by transferring the LP to a CD and the CD to iTunes and from iTunes to you. Enjoy.


Eternity


………………………………..September – remember!
………………………………..October – all over.

…………………………………..BARBADIAN ADAGE

After it was over, though still gusting balefully,
The old woman and I foraged some drier clothes
And left the house, or what was left of it;
Parts of the roof reached Yucatan, I suppose.
She almost – even then – got blown across lots
At the base of the mountain. But the town, the town!

Wires in the streets and Chinamen up and down
With arms in slings, plaster strewn dense with tiles,
And Cuban doctors, troopers, trucks, loose hens…
The only building not sagging on its knees,
Fernandez’ Hotel, was requisitioned into pens
For cotted Negroes, bandaged to be taken
To Havana on the first boat through. They groaned.

But was there a boat? By the wharf’s old site you saw
Two decks unsandwiched, split sixty feet apart
And a funnel high and dry up near the park
Where a frantic peacock rummaged amid heaped cans.
No one seemed to be able to get a spark
From the world outside, but some rumor blew
That Havana, not to mention poor Batabano,
Was halfway under water with fires
For some hours since – all wireless down
Of course, there too.

………………Back at the erstwhile house
We shoveled and sweated; watched the ogre sun
Blister the mountain, stripped now, bare of palm,
Everything – and like the grass as black as patent
Leather, which the rimed white wind had glazed.
Everything gone – or strewn in riddled grace –
Long tropic roots high in the air, like lace.
And somebody’s mule steamed, swaying right by the pump,
Good God! as though his sinking carcass there
Were death predestined! You held your nose already
along the roads, begging for buzzards, vultures…
The mule stumbled, staggered. I somehow couldn’t budge
To lift a stick for pity of his stupor.

……………………………………….For I
Remember still that strange gratuity of horses
– One ours, and one a stranger, creeping up with dawn
Out of the bamboo brake through howling sheeted light
When the storm was dying. And Sarah saw them, too –
Sobbed. Yes, now – it’s almost over. For they know;
The weather’s in their noses. There’s Don – but that one, white
– I can’t account for him! And true, he stood
Like a vast phantom maned by all that memoried night
Of screaming rain – Eternity!

…………………………..Yet water, water!
I beat the dazed mule toward the road. He got that far
And fell dead or dying, but it didn’t so much matter.
The morrow’s dawn was dense with carrion hazes
Sliding everywhere. Bodies were rushed into graves
Without ceremony, while hammers pattered in town.
The roads were being cleared, injured brought in
And treated, it seemed. In due time
The President sent down a battleship that baked
Something like two thousand loaves on the way.
Doctors shot ahead from the deck of planes.
The fever was checked. I stood a long time in Mack’s talking
New York with the gobs, Guantanamo, Norfolk, –
Drinking Bacardi and talking U.S.A.


Hart_Crane

Tennessee Williams talks about Hart Crane and reads Indiana.

8 Comments

  1. lally
    Posted 6 Apr ’16 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    wow Don, thanks so much for going to all the trouble to make this happen…as an old fan of much of Crane and some of Williams, this was a revelation as well as a delight (if that’s not too happy a word to use for a poem whose subject matter is so dark)…

  2. Posted 6 Apr ’16 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    It makes me happy. It makes me cry. It makes me happy also that you are happy. Thank you, Michael. I appreciate it.

  3. Posted 7 Apr ’16 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Don. What a find! Thank you so much for all the work you did to bring this to your readers. Blessings.

  4. Posted 7 Apr ’16 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    Hart Crane is my favorite poet. I feel a spiritual affinity with him, and I believe he was America’s last truly great poet. Had he lived, he might’ve been our greatest. This poem is not necessarily typical of his work, but it points to a highly realistic, even somewhat conversational direction that he might’ve taken later on. It also makes me think of what his prose might’ve sounded like had he written any. As for me, I love nearly all of his poems. I’m not somebody who believes he was merely a magnificent failure, nor do I see his methods as overwrought, overly obscure or limited. I believe The Bridge to be the greatest poem of its kind in the 20th century, and a pivotal hybrid of the lyric and epic traditions in English language verse. I truly feel that Crane’s work sets the bar for modern American poets, and that our best and most powerful strains (the Romantic and sublime ones) are central to his work. The first poet to awaken and thrill me was Shakespeare; the second, who gave me my ear, was Keats; but Crane (and Whitman in his worthwhile work) is the only poet who has consistently spoken to me as a blood-brother, as a fellow poet, as an artist-dreamer very nearly crushed by modernity and reality. He is our most undervalued artistic treasure. If you’re interested in the best evaluation of Crane’s work I have yet stumbled upon, John T. Irwin’s “Hart Crane’s Poetry”. Irwin is more penetrating than Harold Bloom, whose criticism has done Crane as much a disservice as a service. Sorry to ramble on, it’s just not often that I meet another lover of Crane, or even another reader who has heard of his work.

    • Posted 7 Apr ’16 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

      We have similar tastes in poets: Whitman, Keats, Shakespeare, were all very important to me for both their sound and their spirit. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  5. Posted 10 Apr ’16 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Thank you. Loved this.

  6. Posted 21 Aug ’18 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Don. This post is a true treasure. — Michael Simms

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